BlogHer Handmade day

“Every single one of us is super-special.
You have to find your talent and share it.”
~ Amy Turn-Sharp

There are so many notes from the Creative Connection Event that blogging about it could take a year. It is also easy to get lost in other people’s blogs about it. But the beauty of the online world is that we can revisit these places every once in a while and remember the inspiration, community and positive energy that was generated in St. Paul.

Day 1 of the event was BlogHer Handmade, a one-day conference focused on how to improve our online presence and create a community that will eventually generate an income. The panelists were all very inspirational in their stories, and so human in their response to us newbies. It is easy to get star-struck by artists who have such esteemed careers and thousands of followers.

The “celebrity list” of panelists and keynote speakers included: Megan Jordan, Corrine Leigh, Marie LeBaron, Mena Trott, Amy Turn-Sharp, Nora Abousteit, Becky Higgins, Stacy Julian, Wendy Piersall, Gina Luker, Traci Bautista, Amanda Rettke, Crissy Heron, Becky Jorgensen, Jori des Jardins, Karen Walrond, and Kathy Cano-Murillo.

Panelists: Marie Le Baron, Mena Trott, Corrine Leigh, Megan Jordan; Becky Jorgensen, Amy Turn-Sharp, Crissy Heron; Amanda Rettke, Traci Bautista, Gina Luker, Wendy Piersall

Each of these ladies established her career path in a different way, but the common thread was that they started with passion and developed a voice around their topic/issue/craft. Some women refocused their careers entirely (lawyer to photographer and author, techie to seamstress), others fought for a niche that was newly developing (Burda online), or a blog started for personal reasons generated a much bigger community that evolved into a business model.

from I Am Her

During the keynote luncheon Nora Abousteit, Becky Higgins and Stacy Julian shared their keys to success. Stacy Julian’s top three tips included:

  1. Solve your own problems: Any big problem is a big (business) opportunity
  2. Take care of your vision, don’t compromise it (be true to yourself)
  3. Cultivate relationships with mentors, customers, friends

When crafting an online business, the first step is to ensure you find your voice on your blog. Crissy Heron cautioned us to not wait for our blog to be perfect, but to just start posting. Consistency is key when blogging-pick certain times and days and stick to them. Then you can develop topics and a blog schedule based on your interests or activities, and involve your readers in content development by asking what they are most interested in.

“If it’s not fun, re-evaluate.”
~ Stacy Julian

After you have set up your blog, do not try all social media approaches at once. Just looking at the list of tools: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, Tumblr, Picasa, Flickr, Pinterest etc. can be overwhelming. The suggestion by the panel on Content & Community Building was to set up accounts with each of them but then select 3 tools to actively use and monitor. Then be selective in where you comment regularly so you do not get too overwhelmed with feedback. Most ladies spent 2 hours a day managing their online presence and then had a cutoff point to not spend all day on the Internet.

We also did some in-person community building that morning with a speed-networking session, which felt as blurry as this picture turned out. Good thing I have business cards to remember the connections by!

As your community grows, monitor and recognize your key commenters and the readers who “police” the site for you. Always always always give credit when inspired by another person’s idea. When receiving negative comments, Mena Trott’s advice was “I just think that they forgot to put a smiley 🙂 at the end of the sentence,” and to be kind when responding.

“I do things correctly accidentally a lot.”
~ Gina Luker

We also covered three business models to monetize a blog, which include:

  • Selling your own product or service online
  • Advertising and sponsorships
  • Having the blog generate a book deal

The approaches varied as to what the bloggers focused on, so again it is a matter of trying things and learning what works best for you. Another key factor is to ensure that when accepting sponsorships, that the products resonate with you and you and your readers will actually use them. A big theme at the event was that bloggers would not endorse or review products they did not personally have an interest in.

While the nature of these panels didn’t allow for digging deep into the topics covered, I still picked up a lot of new information and am glad I attended these sessions. My next steps will be to implement some of the tips and explore the social media outlets new to me (including BlogHer’s web site). Then I will seek out some advisors to go through my own social media approach and dig deeper into what I personally need to do.

Here’s hoping this blog will become all the better for it. 🙂

“Use your blog as a catalyst to live your best life.”
~Holly Becker

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